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Handpicked in harmony: Allyson Speaks

Her home is inspired by another era


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Allyson Speaks is nothing if not 100 percent authentic. As the owner of Century Vintage, a popular clothing and furniture resale store on Central Avenue, her normal day's work consists of finding and refurbishing unique pieces from previous eras and re-introducing them to the modern day consumer market. From old-school, retro furniture and clothing to refrigerators and record players dating back to the '60s and '70s, this dimly lit haven for all things vintage is not much different from her American farmhouse-style home in Southeast Charlotte.

The charming old-world, two-story house, which Speaks moved into 20 years ago, is set against a rural backdrop. The white paint is chipping, and the spacious front porch is as cheerful and welcoming as the home's owner. Wearing a chiffon floral print dress accessorized with a black, fishnet fascinator and vintage Charles Jordanne heels, Speaks greets me with a great big hug.

Entering the foyer, it's difficult to notice anything but the gorgeous solid pine staircase leading to the two upstairs bedrooms. To the immediate left is the living room, which is not currently being used, and to the right, another bedroom. A large black cauldron belonging to her grandmother is stationed in the corner of the foyer, and above it hangs an engraved wood block painting of a bird that her friend Joan had made for her. It's clear that every piece is handpicked and of great significance to Speaks. She is very thoughtful with all of her items, and can provide detailed accounts of each piece's history and origin.

"I don't buy anything new," says the artist-turned-business owner. "It's like making a patchwork quilt. You take pieces of material from here and there, and you make something warm and beautiful out of it. When I buy furniture or clothing, or anything really, I look for salvageable pieces that just need a little nurturing."

Speaks' individuality seems to shine the brightest in her dining and kitchen areas. Dressed from floor to ceiling in retro funky textures, fabrics and colors, these two rooms are definitely the heart of the home. A round, white, early '70s-era table is on the left of the dining room, accompanied by ultra-sleek acrylic chairs upholstered with bright red faux fur. Against the wall is a plush blue sofa, which swallowed me up as soon as I sat down.

"Oh, that's my cookie monster couch set!" she says proudly. "I got that from an auction in Florida."

The kitchen is located just off of the dining room and has the look of a perfectly staged studio set from a popular 1970s television show. The pastel blue and yellow checkered wallpaper is accented by all types of knickknacks from yesteryear, including an old school Maxwell House coffee urn. There's also an amazing turquoise green refrigerator and an old school oven where the burners pull out and the door lifts up to open. Her matching turquoise green linoleum floor came from a local thrift store and adds even more cheerfulness to the room.

As the tour of Speaks' home comes to an end, I ask her where she gets most of her things. She simply responds, with a smile, "I'd tell ya, but I'd have to kill ya."

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